Delaware officials unveil gun bill

Proposed law would require the reporting of stolen weapons

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Under new legislation proposed in Delaware, individuals who fail to notify police of a stolen or missing gun would face a fine of up to $500 for a first offense and could lose their right to own a gun as a second offense.

The bill was unveiled last week by Delaware Gov. Jack Markell, Lt. Gov. Matt Denn and Attorney General Beau Biden at the Delaware State Police building in Newark, Del.

Some of the top police chiefs in Delaware attended the event to support the legislation.

"If we are serious about keeping guns out of the hands of people who have no right to have them, we need to do a better job of accounting for missing firearms," Mr. Markell told the assembled crowd. "It's a very real problem."

Mr. Markell cautiously stopped short of linking all missing firearms to the gun violence occurring in Delaware.

"Does every missing gun become a crime weapon? No," Mr. Markell said. "But if you ask law enforcement officials like those here with us today, what they will tell you is that it happens way too often."

Delaware's gun owners would be required to report the stolen or lost firearm within 48 hours under the bill. If an individual fails to report a stolen gun for the first time, he or she could be charged with a misdemeanor and could receive a fine between $100 and $500.

For each subsequent offense, an individual would face a Class G felony charge, which would include different fines and a possible revocation of his or her right to own a gun.

State Sen. Margaret Rose Henry and state Rep. Michael Barbieri, both Democrats, are the bill's primary sponsors.

The bill is one of five gun safety measures being proposed in the wake of the school shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., as well as the gun violence that has plagued Wilmington, Del., in recent weeks.

One of the more notable incidents of gun violence in Delaware occurred Feb. 11, when Thomas Matusiewicz killed Christine Belford and Laura Mulford at the New Castle County Courthouse in Wilmington.

Asked if he felt an increased urgency to pass gun control legislation in the wake of the courthouse shooting, Mr. Denn said that "this legislation was urgent before the shooting."

Among the other safety measures expected to be unveiled by Mr. Markell over the next few weeks are a bill requiring licensed gun dealers to conduct background checks for private firearm sales; banning the sale, delivery and unlawful possession of large-capacity magazines; banning the sale, delivery and unlawful possession of military-style assault weapons; and banning the possession of a firearm within 1,000 feet of a school.

"Over the next few weeks, we expect to unveil the proposed legislation as they are done," Mr. Denn said. "We want to make sure these bills are as thoughtful as possible to protect our residents."

The governor added that several bills could be introduced focusing on child safety and improving access to mental health, but did not provide more details.

When speaking to the crowd, Ms. Henry said the mandatory gun loss reporting legislation was introduced first because among all of the governor's gun reform proposals, it stood the best chance of being passed into a bill by the General Assembly.

During his remarks, Mr. Denn criticized what he characterized as a misinformation campaign to oppose the legislation by suggesting that any gun reform proposals will result in the confiscation of Delaware residents' guns.

legalnews

Jeff Mordock: jmordock@alm.com or 215-557-2485. To read more articles like this, visit www.thelegalintelligencer.com.


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